Orphism and Orphica

Sonia Delaunay – Rhythm

Chords [Passages 14]
by Robert Duncan

For the Thing we call Moon contains
    “many mountains, many cities, many houses”
And Nature, our Mother,
    hides us, even from ourselves, there;
    showing only in changes of the Moon    •    Time
“a serpent having heads growing from him
    •    a bull and a lion,
                the face of a god-man in the middle,
    and he has also wings, and is calld
    ageless, Xronos, father of the ages,
                and Herakles”;
    is called Eros, Phanes, χρονος ευμαρης Θεος
having the seeds of all things in his body,
    Protogonos, Erikepaios, Dionysos    •   
These are the Names.    Wind Child,    ύπηνεμιον
                of our Night Nature
in the Moon Egg:        First-Born, Not-Yet-Born,
                Born-Where-We-Are    •    Golden Wings,
the unlookt for light in the aither
                gleaming    amidst clouds.
What does it mean that the Tritopatores, “doorkeepers and
    guardians of the winds”, carry the human Psyche to Night’s
    invisible palace,    to the Egg
                where Eros sleeps,
    the Protoegregorikos, the First Awakend?    To waken Him
          they carried her into    his Sleep,    the winds
disturbing the curtains at the window,    moving
          the blind, the first        tap tap,        the first count or
heart beat    •    the guardians of the winds (words)
          lifting her as the line lifts meanings and would
light the light,        the crack of dawn in the Egg
          Night’s nature shelters        before Time.
Before Time’s altars,        our Mother-Nature
          lighting the stars in order,        setting
Her night-light        in the wind the Egg will be.

    The breath of the stars, moving before the stars,
        breath of great Nature,        our own,        Logos,
                that is all        milk and light    •   
    These things reborn within Zeus,        happening anew.
“A dazzling light    .  .    aither    .  .    Eros    .  .    Night”
                where we are
The first being Fairyland,        the Shining Land.

Sonia Delaunay – Demi Cercles sur Bleue et Jaune

The Sonnets to Orpheus (Part II, Sonnet 29)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

Sonia Delaunay – Abstract Swirl

Instructions to the Orphic Adept
by Robert Graves

[In part translated from the Timpone Grande and Campagno Orphic tablets.]

So soon as ever your mazed spirit descends
From daylight into darkness, Man, remember
What you have suffered here in Samothrace,
What you have suffered.

After your passage through Hell’s seven floods,
Whose fumes of sulphur will have parched your throat,
The Halls of Judgement shall loom up before you,
A miracle of jasper and of onyx.
To the left hand there bubbles a black spring
Overshadowed with a great white cypress.
Avoid this spring, which is Forgetfulness;
Though all the common rout rush down to drink,
Avoid this spring!

To the right hand there lies a secret pool
Alive with speckled trout and fish of gold;
A hazel overshadows it. Ophion,
Primaeval serpent straggling in the branches,
Darts out his tongue. This holy pool is fed
By dripping water; guardians stand before it.
Run to this pool, the pool of Memory.
Run to this pool!

Then will the guardians scrutinize you, saying:
‘Who are you, who? What have you to remember?
Do you not fear Ophion’s flickering tongue?
Go rather to the spring beneath the cypress,
Flee from this pool!’

Then shall you answer: ‘I am parched with thirst.
Give me to drink. I am a child of Earth,
But of Sky also, come from Samothrace.
Witness the glint of amber on my brow.
Out of the Pure I am come, as you may see.
I also am of your thrice-blessèd kin,
Child of the three-fold Queen of Samothrace;
Have made full quittance for my deeds of blood,
Have been by her invested in sea-purple,
And like a kid have fallen into milk.
Give me to drink, now I am parched with thirst,
Give me to drink!’

But they will ask you yet: ‘What of your feet?’
You shall reply: ‘My feet have borne me here
Out of the weary wheel, the circling years,
To that still, spokeless wheel:–Persephone.
Give me to drink!’

Then they will welcome you with fruit and flowers,
And lead you toward the ancient dripping hazel,
Crying: ‘Brother of our immortal blood,
Drink and remember glorious Samothrace!’
Then you shall drink.

You shall drink deep of that refreshing draught,
To become lords of the uninitiated
Twittering ghosts, Hell’s countless populace–
To become heroes, knights upon swift horses,
Pronouncing oracles from tall white tombs
By the nymphs tended. They with honey water
Shall pour libations to your serpent shapes,
That you may drink.

Sonia Delaunay – Rhythm Color

Leave a comment


  1. Very interesting! Especially with the paintings you’ve included here…

    (One of the highlights of the EBC last weekend was Pam Grossman’s talk on modern art and occultism, which included an explication of Mondrian that I found to be incredibly useful…)

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the paintings – not that many people have heard of the modernist art movement known as Orphism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphism_%28art%29) or “Orphic Cubism.” And Sonia Delaunay is by far one of my favorite artists from this movement. Her work is staggeringly powerful (downright hypnotic) when viewed in person.

  1. Jack-a-Dreams
  2. Numquam satis discitur « The House of Vines

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